In antiques, there are some very narrow collecting fields and there are some real ‘niches’. When a collection of around thirty dog collars was consigned for sale to Halls Fine Art a week or two ago, an outside observer might have been tempted to think that these are common collectables in antiques because of their number. But guess what? Antique dog collars are rare, super rare! They are so rare that no author has managed to find enough of them to write the definitive work on the ‘Antique Dog Collar’! To have thirty consigned all at once is also extraordinary. In my thirty-two years as an auctioneer I have only ever sold two and one of them is in this collection!
You may by now be wondering whether an old dog collar is worth anything and if it is, why? Everybody has heard of the expression that a dog is a ‘man’s best friend’, always pleased to see you, loyal and generally great to be around. Today and in the past owners recorded their names on the collars of their dogs. Wealthy landowners had silver examples made for their pet poodles, hunting dogs had leather or brass collars and all were secured with a variety of elaborate padlocks, chains or straps. A brass dog collar detailing an owner’s name and dated can easily make four figures. If the owner of the dog is famous, his dog’s collar will have added value in the reflected prestige. Recently Lord Byron’s (1788-1824) Newfoundland dog’s collar came up for auction. The dog, ‘Boatswain’ died in 1808 when he was bitten by another dog and contracted rabies. The brass collar, marked for Lord Byron, sold for £14,000! Worth collecting now?
Part of the appeal of the antique dog collar is that it brings together dog lovers, historians and antiques dealers together in one market. If the collar is fully marked up with an owner’s name and address, especially a titled owner then, like a medal, it can be researched and the particulars of the owner can add value. Add to this the rather convenient display size of an antique dog collar and you suddenly have a very interesting market with a lot of followers in a nation of dog lovers. Even simple collars can sell for upwards of £80 whilst engraved examples in brass, or better, silver, can make several thousand pounds.
The history of dog collars is an old one. In the Veste Coburg in Bavaria, home of the Saxe-Coburg Gothas (otherwise known as the Royal family), there is a room known as the Intarsia Hunting Room designed by Wolfgang Birkner (1580-1651) and completed in 1632. It details panels of stag hunting with dogs and all the canines are obviously wearing leather collars. In the main museum, there are even mannequins of large hunting dogs wearing huge leather sixteenth century collars and chain mail. A dog collar also featured prominently on Count Filippo Aldrovandi’s dog painted by Giovanni Guercino (Italian 1591-1666) in 1625. In the painting, the dog is seen standing ‘four square’ and the collar is painted with the count’s coat of arms. In ‘dog collar history’ terms however, these two examples are recent. Dogs have had collars as long as man has befriended them.
It is always a delight to me to encourage people in their collecting and I would be the first to recommend collecting antique dog collars but there is a catch. They hardly ever come up for sale! If this article has, nevertheless, whetted your appetite, come to Halls Fine Art on 12th December and buy some of the rarest antiques we see. There may not be another opportunity for a long time to come to see so many in one place.
For information about these lots please contact Jeremy Lamond on 01743 450 700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org